"UNREALISTIC..unproven..insufficient..impractical..questionable.." - just some of the criticism fired at Associated British Ports over its plans for railway access to a new Dibden Bay container terminal.

The rail scheme essential to reduce traffic impact on the narrow lanes of Marchwood and Dibden will cost an estimated £1billion and require upgrades as far as the West Midlands to cope with massive container convoys.

National transport think-tank the Strategic Rail Authority said it would not take sides in the battle over the bay. A spokesman said: "We have no preference for any of the container port schemes around the country.

"Whichever ports succeed, we will try and provide them with as much rail capacity as possible."

ABP has said around 30 per cent of the goods arriving at Dibden Bay by sea will depart the same way. Of the remainder destined for the UK, 35 per cent will head off by rail via 48 freight trains running daily - 28 trips will be after dark.

Less than 50 per cent of containers arriving at the port will leave by road, but those that do will initially take the A326. ABP has promised "significant and appropriate" contribution to road improvements, including £1.5m to Totton to offset the pressure of extra trains on the town's Junction Road level crossing.

A Totton spokesman has spurned the offer as not enough by half.

For Marchwood, county councillor Mel Kendal said: "The present situation of excessive traffic through Marchwood is barely tolerable and safe.

"Additional traffic loads will impact to the severe detriment of the community."